City officials are calling for the public to help shape history this Saturday (June 1).
Thats when the ball will get rolling on the future of the Garden City lands, a 136-acre parcel close to the citys core, which has been off limits to Richmond residents pretty much since the early 1900s.
That will change Saturday with the Garden City Ideas Fair when from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. all will be welcome to visit the site, learn about its history, soil type and what wildlife currently call it home.
What will not be supplied by city officials are ideas on what the future holds for the land located between Westminster Highway, Garden City Way, Alderbridge Way and No. 4 Road. Thats what the public is being asked to provide.
Mayor Malcolm Brodie said the land is pretty much a blank canvas city staff and council have no preconceived notions of what should be done with the property that Richmond purchased in March 2010 for $59.17 million from the Canada Lands Company (CLC) Ltd. and Musqueam Indian Band.
Previously, when Richmond was in negotiations to buy the land, its objectives were to use it for public amenities, community wellness, urban agriculture and environmental sustainability.
Those were the three objectives at that time, and those will be very important factors as we go forward, Brodie said, adding he personally wants to keep a very open mind as to what we should be doing with this land.
And now is the time to start asking the public for their view, how do they see it, what are the possibilities and their wishes. And a good first step is to have the ideas fair on Saturday.
Guiding the future use is the fact the property falls within the Agricultural Land Reserve that would prevent any significant development of the site.
Essentially, youve got farm-use, non-farm-use and then youve got exemptions, explained Mike Redpath, Richmonds senior manager of Parks. So, its both an opportunity and a constraint.
I have shied away from being specific in what I think would be appropriate there, Brodie said. There are so many factors involved. From my point of view, I dont see us putting any buildings on it other than if we had a garden, wed probably want a tool shed.
The mayor likened the Garden City Lands to the Terra Nova Rural Park that the city purchased and has supported with funding and grant applications to turn it into a jewel Richmond can be proud of, he said.
I think we all see (the Garden City Lands) as an opportunity going forward. What the financial commitments will be, it remains to be seen. But how can you shy away from supporting Terra Nova, or the Garden City Lands.
Hopes are to achieve a consensus vision after consultation with the public by spring of next year.
Whatever the outcome is, its expected to be a far cry from what the Garden City Lands had been used for in the past.
The federal government acquired the property in 1903 and it was used as the Vancouver Rifle Range for military training during the First World War.
After its closure in 1928, the land sat vacant until 1949 when the federal Ministry of Transport erected radio transmitters on the site for maritime use. That lasted until 1994 when the antenna farm many Richmond residents came to know was removed.
In the late 1980s, proposals for the land were driven by the need for sports facilities and bids to host sporting events.
There was also the proposal to build a trade and exhibition centre that would have initially been used as a media centre during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Now, with the public input being sought, other uses in keeping with the ALR designation have been floated.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has expressed interest in establishing an educational farming facility on a portion.
Theyve already approached us through the parks committee, and they would like to have something as part of their curriculum of studies on sustainable horticulture, Brodie said.
But with the myriad of ideas sure to be submitted, the ultimate conclusion may be to leave the Garden City Lands in its current state for future generations to decide its use.
Either way, Brodie said the opportunity of deciding its future is a unique one.
This is 136 acres, right in the heart of our city. Its an opportunity to plan something very special and significant, right in our midst. To be able to take that land and carry out your vision with the input of your citizens is something very few cities are able to do.
Free public parking and shuttle service will be provided from nearby Lansdowne Centre. For more information about the site, visit http://creategardencitylands.ca.